Ecological Studies on the Alaskan Arctic Slope


  • Frank A. Pitelka



Adaptation (Biology), Animal migration, Health, Human migration, Traditional knowledge, Research, Zoology, Alaska


Considers the tundra, or terrestrial environment and animal ecology primarily, citing the prime role of the Naval Arctic Research Lab at Barrow since 1947, in making the North Arctic Slope and adjacent waters one of the best-known sectors of the Arctic. The International Biological Program includes analysis of ecosystems and human adaptability, which demand study in the Arctic, where tundra, a low temperature extreme among ecosystem-types on the land, has a special importance. Future work will require ecologists, physiologists, taxonomists, climatologists, geomorphologists, pediologists and others to understand the tundra habitat and its populations as a total system. The complexity is illustrated by a flow diagram for energy and nutrients in tundra ecosystems and of the energy cycle in the biosphere, with comments on specific problems. Little is known about decomposition processes or life cycles of insects upon which birds feed; more quantitative observation and measurement of vegetation, the base of the food web, is needed. Factors and strategies which influence diversity of animal species in the tundra are discussed. Need to deal with ecology of the normal tundra is crucial, for with discovery of oil in northern Alaska, there is a need to deal with a damaged tundra.